DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife - Fall 1997
Can a person be a hunter and an environmentalist?
Apparently so, since I'm such a combination. Despite what you might have
heard, there's no contradiction between hunting animals and protecting
the environment. For more than half a century, hunters have been the stewards
of this nation's soil and water. And in recent years, environmentalists
have joined in, adding their resources, knowledge, and zeal to the fight
to protect the places where fish, wildlife, and native plants live. Anyone
who hunts animals, photographs animals, or just likes to know that animals
are doing well needs to be concerned about protecting the water, soil,
and air that give animals life.
Hunters first set their sights on protecting this nation's wild natural
resources in the early 1900s under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.
An early environmentalist and noted big game hunter, Roosevelt added more
than 125 million acres to national forests and was instrumental in creating
the U.S. Forest Service.
Hunters continued to break new environmental ground in the 1930s and
'40s. That was when the nation's national wildlife refuge system was greatly
expanded and when hunters first began buying duck stamps, which over the
past 60 years have protected hundreds of thousands of wetland acres. And
it has been the modern hunter who is responsible for restoring populations
of white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, Canada geese, and other wildlife species.
But haven't hunters been doing all this environmental good out of self
interest? Sure?protecting habitat means more animals to hunt. But it also
means more animals in general, whether they are hunted or not. For example,
more than half of Minnesota's 1 million acres of wildlife management areas
was purchased by hunters. But these wildlife lands are also home to hundreds
of nongame species.
Just as environmentalism has benefited from hunters, so has hunting
been helped by environmentalists. The best example is the federal Clean
Water Act of 1972, which has led to cleaner aquatic habitats for furbearers,
waterfowl, and other wildlife ?not to mention fish?throughout the U.S.
Nationally, the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Audubon, and
other so-called green groups continue to fight to halt development that
eats up natural lands and pollutes lakes and streams.
So important is environmental protection to hunting and fishing that
a key part of this division is our Environmental Review Program. These
ecologists review plans for golf courses, highways, malls, marinas, and
other development. If they spot activities that threaten valuable wildlife
habitat, they then work with the developers to find ways to reduce, avoid,
or compensate for the damage. As a result, thousands of acres of habitat
have been protected.
Minnesota hunters, anglers, and environmentalists have a long history
of putting aside differences and joining forces to conserve the outdoors.
The Reinvest in Minnesota Program and the Minnesota Wetland Conservation
Act are two examples of how folks from diverse camps pooled their talents,
energies, and political resources to influence legislation for the good
of all Minnesotans who care about the outdoors.
It is in the spirit of this environmental cohesiveness that I congratulate
the Izaak Walton League of America, which this year celebrates its 75th
anniversary. Many conservation organizations work to serve the interests
of both hunting and the environment, but I believe that none has done a
better job of wearing both hats than the Izaak Walton League.
Here in Minnesota, the Ikes have been ardent supporters of all the state's
major environmental works, from the Save the Wetlands Program that began
in the early 1950s to the creation of the Natural Resources and Environment
Trust Fund in recent years. The Ikes were also the driving force behind
the creation of the Agassiz, Tamarac, and Hamden Slough national wildlife
In October of this year, the Ikes released a report with the Clean Water
Fund documenting the environmental harm of Minnesota's coal-burning plants?the
single largest source of harmful air emissions in the state. Air pollution
threatens human health. It also deteriorates forests, lakes, and other
Hats off to the Izaak Walton League of America. May it continue to inspire
hunters and environmentalists for another 75 years.
?Roger Holmes is director of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife